Using Dolphin to Evaluate Web Accessibility
Dolphin ScreenReader, is a screen reader for Windows computers, less commonly used in the USA, but more popular in the UK and Europe. It is also a core component of SuperNova Magnifier & Screen Reader. Hot keys are common to both products.
This article is designed to help users who are new to Dolphin learn the basic controls for testing web content with speech, and to serve as a reference for the occasional user. For more detailed information on using Dolphin, see Dolphin's free online tutorials. To change language layouts, or for other in-product help, press F1 from the Dolphin Control Panel.
If you are new to screen readers, plan on spending some time (perhaps a few hours) becoming comfortable using Dolphin. Don't get discouraged if things still seem confusing after only a few minutes. Slow down the reading speed and take your time. Remember that many screen reader users do not use a mouse, so try using only the keyboard as you become more comfortable with a screen reader.
You can download a demonstration version Dolphin ScreenReader (Windows only) that will run free of charge for 30 days. After this period, you should purchase an unlock code to continue using it.
While working in Dolphin, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Open Dolphin first, then the browser.
- Chrome is the most common browser among Dolphin users, followed by Firefox and Edge.
- All browser shortcut keys will work when using Dolphin.
- The page will automatically scroll while you read.
- Dolphin has an option to change the keyboard layout from the (default) to . The Desktop layout requires a Numeric keypad NumPad. The Laptop layout uses the Function keys. Many commands are easier to perform in this default layout,
- By default, Caps Lock is the Dolphin modifier key (a key used in many commands—we will call it the Dolphin key). This modifier key can be customized in the Control Panel.
- Caps Lock can still be used while editing with no impact.
There are many keyboard shortcuts that allow you to read web content. The following is a list of essential reading shortcuts. With these shortcuts, you should be able to read through most content.
- NumPad +: Read from Here
- ↑/↓: Rewind/Fast Forward during Read from Here
- Ctrl +Shift + -/+ (technically the = key) Increase/Decrease voice rate
- Esc Stop Read from Here
- Ctrl: Mute
- NumPad 5: Current line
- Ctrl: + ←/→:Previous/next word
- ↑: Previous line
- ↓: Next line
- ←/→: Previous/Next character
- F5 / Shift + F5 - Page refresh / Hard page refresh. If you get lost, this is how you can start over.
You may want to practice reading through this page with Dolphin right now to try these commands out.
An image's alternative text will be read by Dolphin. If alternative text is not defined, a screen reader will typically ignore it, except in some cases where the image has a function.
Image examples and practice
To navigate to the next table in a page, press the T key. To navigate within a data table, hold down Dolphin and use ↑/↓/←/→ to move from cell to cell. If a table has proper row and column headers, pressing Shift + NumPad 0 will announce current cell information including headers. If headers are not correctly defined, this key will announce the cell position (e.g., "column 3, row 2")
Table examples and practice
When a form control gets keyboard focus, its label is read by Dolphin, and then the type of form control. If a group of form controls—typically groups of checkboxes or radio buttons—is contained in a fieldset with a legend, Dolphin presents items in a fieldset as a group and reads the legend when you first navigate to anything within the group.
Use the following browser keyboard controls to interact with form controls:
- Tab and Shift + Tab: Navigate through form controls.
- Space: Select and deselect checkboxes.
- ↑/↓:Select from a group of radio buttons.
- ↑/↓ or the first letter of an option: Select an option in a combo box
- Enter: Submit a form
Form examples and practice
Since screen readers use many of the keys on the keyboard for quick navigation, filling in a form or interacting with a widget presents a dilemma. For example, when pressing the "H" key, how does a screen reader know if you want to navigate to the next heading or enter the letter into a textbox?
By default, Dolphin operates in what it calls "Dolphin Cursor" while in a browser—the mode where the "H" key takes you to the next heading, for example. It changes to "Forms Mode" when you navigate to text boxes or other elements that require keyboard interaction. When you navigate out of the interactive control—for example, to a link—it will switch back to Dolphin Cursor. Dolphin announces the change to Forms Mode with a spoken prompt.
Press Dolphin + Enter to toggle between Forms Mode and Dolphin Cursor manually, though this usually unnecessary unless there is a problem with a custom-built widget.
- Review this page, section by section. At the end of each section, return to the top and navigate to new sections in different ways. For example:
- Use the Table of Contents
- Use Ctrl + F to open the Find dialog
- Navigate by headings (either H or 1-3)
- There are a couple of elements in this page that are visually hidden, but which are provided to better orient screen reader users. See if you can identify them (hint: one is right before the breadcrumbs).
- Locate and visit our WCAG 2 checklist.
- Subscribe to the WebAIM Newsletter without using your mouse.
- Turn off the monitor and repeat some of these tasks.